June 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2024
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In June, the Security Council will vote to renew the mandate of the 1533 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sanctions regime, which expires on 1 July, and of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, which expires on 1 August.

Key Recent Developments

The deteriorating security situation in North Kivu due to continued fighting between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), supported by allied militias known locally as Wazalendo, and the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) has displaced a massive number of people, exacerbating the humanitarian situation. Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, hosts over 500,000 displaced people, according to the UN. On 3 May, bombings of two internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Lac-Vert and Mugunga near Goma reportedly killed at least 35 people. In a 3 May press statement, the Special Representative and Head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita, strongly condemned the attacks against the IDP camps and called on parties to the conflict to guarantee the civilian character of all sites for displaced people.

In an 8 May letter to the Council President, the DRC accused Rwanda and the M23 of responsibility for the attack and characterised the situation as a serious breach of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

In a 3 May press release, the US also said the Rwandan Defence Forces and M23 were implicated in the attack. The US has called for an evaluation of Rwanda’s role as a major UN troop-contributing country. The US press release elicited a strong reaction from Rwanda, which, in a 5 May press statement, rejected the US accusation as unjustified and called for a credible investigation into the attack to establish the facts. It referenced a warning issued by Médecins Sans Frontières, which it said drew attention to the placement of heavy artillery by FARDC in the IDP camps. Rwanda accused the FARDC and the Burundian forces deployed in eastern DRC as part of a bilateral agreement with the Congolese government of the deadly shelling. In a 20 May note verbale addressed to the Security Council, Rwanda requested that a brief describing its position regarding the incident be circulated to members.

In its 8 May letter to the Security Council, the DRC urged the Council to suspend Rwanda from participating in UN peacekeeping operations until it ceases to support the M23 and withdraws its forces from Congolese territory. In the letter, the DRC also reiterated its request for the Security Council to impose sanctions on Rwanda based on the reporting of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

In their 13 June 2023 report, the Group of Experts presented evidence implicating Rwanda for directly intervening inside Congolese territory, either to reinforce M23 combatants or to conduct military operations against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR)—an ethnic Hutu armed group active in eastern DRC—and other local armed groups. The Group of Experts also provided evidence that local armed groups and the FDLR have created an entity—known as Wazalendo—to fight the M23 alongside the FARDC. The report said that senior FARDC officers had coordinated these operations and supported the armed groups with logistics, military equipment, and financing.

On 19 May, a group of armed men attacked the Palais de la Nation, the Congolese president’s office in Kinshasa. Media reports indicate that Christian Malanga, a Congolese politician residing in the US, was allegedly behind this attack. He reportedly lost his life with some of his associates during a shootout with government security forces. His son and other associates, including foreigners, are in custody. The residence of Vital Kamerhe, deputy prime minister for the economy and the leader of the ruling Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC) party, was targeted as well, and two police officers were killed in the attack on Kamerhe’s residence. On 22 May, the national assembly elected Kamerhe as the Speaker of Parliament. In an appearance on public television, the spokesperson of the Congolese army described the situation as a foiled “coup.” In an X (formerly Twitter) post, Keita strongly condemned the attacks on the Palais de la Nation and the Kamerhe residence, and expressed MONUSCO’s readiness to provide support in line with its mandate.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, visited the DRC from 15-18 April 2024. At the conclusion of his visit, the High Commissioner underscored the complexity of human rights challenges in the DRC, highlighting the situation in the eastern provinces, where he said that “there is an exhausted and profoundly traumatised population, devastated by decades of war and conflict.” Türk emphasised that the continuous attacks and abduction of civilians frequently targeted human rights defenders, journalists, and community leaders in North Kivu. He also mentioned the continued forced conscription of children by the M23. Since October, Türk said that 500,000 people have been displaced from areas controlled by M23, taking the total number of people displaced in North Kivu to nearly 2.7 million.

The High Commissioner urged countries that support or have influence over the armed groups to assume their responsibility to ensure the fighting stops. He expressed concern about what could happen to civilians should MONUSCO leave precipitously. He also urged the South African Development Community mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC) to establish and implement a robust human rights and international humanitarian law compliance framework to prevent civilian casualties and retain the essential support and trust of the population.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 2 May, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee issued a clarification to banks, shipowners, carriers, financial institutions, and firms operating in the military field to inform them that the Congolese armed and security forces are exempt from the embargo imposed on the supply of military equipment and assistance under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. Pursuant to resolution 2667 of 20 December 2022, the Council lifted the notification requirement on the provision of such assistance to the DRC.

It seems that the final report of the Group of Experts due by 15 June has already been circulated to Council members. At the time of writing, Council members were expected to meet and discuss the report and its recommendations.

Several months ago, Rwanda proposed individuals and entities for designation under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. The DRC also proposed individuals and entities named in the Group of Experts report for designation. At the time of writing, the Rwandan and DRC proposals had yet to be acted upon.

On 27 September, France, the UK, and the US proposed designating one member of M23 and one member of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). On 25 October, the sanctions committee approved their addition to the sanctions’ designation list.

On 20 February, the committee approved the request by France, the UK, and the US for the designation of six individuals: two from the Allied Democratic Forces and one each from the Twirwaneho armed group, the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo, the M23, and the FDLR.

Women, Peace and Security

As the Security Council’s president for April, Malta decided to include a focus on women, peace and security (WPS) at the 24 April open briefing on the Great Lakes. Several participants addressed WPS issues during the meeting. In her briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya said that the eastern DRC “is today one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl”. She updated Council members on gender-based violence in the DRC and on the impact of the conflict on children, noting that 37 percent of girls in the DRC are “forcibly married before the age of 18”. The Coordinator of the civil society organisation Femmes Engagées pour la Paix en Afrique (Women Engaged for Peace in Africa), Pétronille Vaweka, said that almost 30 years of violence, atrocities and mass displacement “orchestrated by domestic and foreign armed groups, and with a lack of protection for civilian populations” have plunged eastern DRC into “chronic insecurity”.

In her statement, Vaweka addressed the link between the minerals used in technological tools such as phones, computers, and electric cars, and the violence and insecurity in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. She urged the Security Council to work towards turning “blood minerals into minerals of life and happiness for the world” through equitable trade which would allow all parties to benefit. Switzerland stressed that although women play a central role in peace movements in the Great Lakes region, “much remains to be done to ensure their full participation, in particular in the Nairobi and Luanda processes”. Similarly, Malta urged the facilitators of the Nairobi and Luanda processes to “appoint women mediators and gender advisors, and to leverage the African Women Leaders Network”.


Key Issues and Options

A key issue for Council members in June is extending the 1533 DRC sanctions regime and renewing the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the sanctions committee. Council members could opt for a straightforward renewal process.

In light of the recent military developments on the ground—particularly with the M23 capturing Rubaya, a mining town in North Kivu province known for producing strategic minerals used in smartphones—the DRC appears to be increasing pressure on Council members to impose sanctions on Rwanda, arguing that the capture of the mining sites in Rubaya will fuel the conflict through the illegal exploitation of natural resources. However, sanctioning Rwanda could be challenging given the lack of consensus within the Council on explicitly referencing the role of external actors in the DRC.


Council Dynamics

Considering the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and the increasing regional tensions, Council members such as the US, France, Switzerland, and Slovenia have been vocal in calling for Rwanda to end its support for M23 and withdraw from Congolese territory.

In their most recent press statement on the situation in DRC, issued on 5 April, Council members opted for broad language to condemn “foreign military support provided to M23 and any other armed group operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” and demanded “the cessation of such support and the immediate withdrawal of any such external party from the Democratic Republic of the Congo”. Council members also used a similar approach to condemn “support, notably provided by military forces, to certain armed groups such as the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR)” and to demand “the cessation of such support”.

France is the penholder on the DRC. Ambassador Michael Imran Kanu (Sierra Leone) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolution
27 June 2023S/RES/2688 The resolution extends the 1533 DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2024 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2024.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 February 2024S/PV.9553 This was a meeting on the situation in the DRC.

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